March 14 2014 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Zeki Fryers believes his development at Tottenham proves he was right to leave Manchester United as the two sides prepare to go head to head at Old Trafford today.
Fryers came through United’s academy and made six appearances for the first team under Sir Alex Ferguson, but declined to renew his contract at the end of the 2011-12 season.
The young defender moved to Standard Liege in Belgium but returned to England just a few months later – a year ago this week - to join the Lilywhites’ academy.
The 21-year-old has since made nine first-team appearances, and he was given his first Premier League start on Sunday in the 3-0 home win over Stoke.
Now Tottenham are about to face his former club, and Fryers has no regrets about leaving Old Trafford and moving to White Hart Lane.
“I wanted a new adventure, really,” he said. “There were certain things there [at United] that didn’t fall my way and I thought it was time to move on.
“I left some friends there, some of them are doing well now - that’s football. My best friend Sam Johnstone, the goalkeeper, is there and we chat regularly.
“I felt that I wanted to be more involved around the first team, regularly - and it’s happened that I’ve come here to Tottenham and I’ve been involved regularly.
“Managers don’t want any player to leave if they’re under contract, but I spoke with him [Ferguson] and I thought it was my time to leave. It just came to it really. I didn’t say anything disrespectful, nor did he disrespect me.
“A lot of people say that when you do leave Man United you go down, but for me, personally, I feel like I’ve gone up, in terms of development.
“Danny Rose is the number one [left-back] but I’d love to start against my old club.”
If Fryers does play against United today it will reopen old wounds for the champions, who were furious to see one of their academy products signing for Tottenham last year.
Spurs had the defender on trial when he was out of contract in the summer of 2012, and took him on a trip to Portugal with a view to signing him.
However, given that Fryers was under 23 years old, United were owed compensation for developing his talent – and the Lilywhites baulked at the £6million fee that was requested.
Instead, Fryers agreed a two-year deal with Standard Liege – so Ferguson was livid when, after less than half a season in Belgium, he suddenly signed for Spurs for £3m. The Scot described the deal as “a blatant manipulation of the situation”, adding: “The Premier League should stop the registration until they examine it.”
However, Fryers insists that his transfers were above board, and that he had no plans to join Spurs when he signed for Liege.
“I wanted to go abroad to further my career, because most foreign players come to England to play, but it’s rare that English people go abroad to play,” said Fryers.
“I thought I was going to go and try something new, for me. I enjoyed it, it was a great experience - and then come January there were a few options.
“Spurs were one of the best teams to go to so I thought I could further my career here, working with the coaches.
“There were always going to be accusations, obviously. But with me finishing in Belgium, I spoke with my agent, we looked at the teams, and Spurs was the best for my improvement and development because of the staff there, like Tim [Sherwood], Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand.
“They are great coaches, they did a lot of work with me and they’re still continuing to do work with me.”
Fryers and Sherwood have both enjoyed rapid promotions over the past year, with the latter recently replacing Andre Villas-Boas as head coach – and Fryers, a left-back who has also played at centre-back for United and Spurs, says the new Tottenham boss has played a key role in his development.
“I worked with him last year in the Under-21s, as well as Les and Chris Ramsey,” said the defender. “They helped me improve my game.
“They helped me get forward more, introducing something new to my game, becoming more of a modern full-back, so that’s helped.
“He [Sherwood] chats to you individually, he’s honest - and honesty is the best thing you need really. If he’s happy then he’s happy, but if he’s not then he’ll tell you.
“I’ve got a chance now, it’s a great feeling. If I can get opportunities and play well then anything can happen. There are a lot of positions there to keep fighting and challenging for, and I am going to keep progressing.”
The left-back position has been a problem for Spurs for much of this season, with Rose’s injury causing Villas-Boas to play Kyle Naughton and Jan Vertonghen out of position.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto could be recalled from his loan spell at QPR, while there are rumours that Tottenham are investigating a loan move for Man United’s Alexander Buttner – but Fryers is keen to prove that the club already has adequate options.
“That’s exactly what I’ve got to do,” he said. “Obviously Benoit is out on loan, he’s an unbelievable left-back - one that I used to watch alongside [Patrice] Evra. He’s out on loan, but that’s beyond what I’m in charge of.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs